Sunday, June 29, 2014

Meandering in a Studio

Pictures from the Asola Studio 

This is a little big moment. I am bringing closure to something that has been pending for five years now. However, this delay was not completely because of my laziness (or so I would like to believe). This experience really changed the way I saw the practice of architecture and that of design and their intersections. It opened my mind and prompted me every summer since 2009 to take up something that was necessarily outside or at least on the edge of the purview of architecture proper.I waited five years to publish this perhaps because I wanted to see for myself if it had made a difference. And it had.

So this is from five summers ago, when I called an architect family friend of mine, Shruti tai soon after my first year juries to suggest some ‘constructive engagement’ for a couple of weeks. She told me that I could call industrial designer Mike Knowles, go to his studio workshop and just look around. This is exactly what I did and there I was, for about three weeks. I would show up every day and just walk around and read and watch curiously. To explore was the interior and furniture design practice of Preeti and Mike Knowles (it was then called inLiving, is now called the Hidden Gallery), and the studios of ceramist Priya Seth and textile and apparel designer Gaurav (Jai) Gupta.

This place was very different from at least all that I had seen in my first year of architecture education. In this farmhouse compound were single storey brick buildings that housed workspaces and workshops and display areas. The place really felt like a small factory and warehouse, only positively so. Some ceilings were lined with metal girders and stone slabs while the others were sloping metal sheets with an inner (tent-like) white fabric lining. Also, all people who worked out of here were actually conceptualizing, executing samples and retailing out of the same common space! ‘Pretty local and sustainable’ is all that my little mind thought to itself back then.

But more importantly, another thing my mind was thinking about was how clueless I was of what I was supposed to do in these three weeks. Having barely begun to warm up to the idea of a design brief, this was as open ended as they get. Mike explained to me what he imagined I could do at the studio. Go around, observe, ask, explore and understand how these work together and what each of these mean to story of contemporary design in India. We never decided on how these observations would be documented, much to my convenience. 

So here are some conversations with Priya Seth and Gaurav (Jai) Gupta from June 2009.

In my time at the studio, what I was subconsciously learning was how these diverse designers were learning from each other by the sheer virtue of sharing their space. I have since believed firmly in the power of cross disciplinary collaboration and how much it can enrich us as people and designers.

Some of the work that Preeti and Mike create and curate: 

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